Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what He has spoken to her!
Mother’s Day is right around the corner and I found myself very blessed this week by an amazing group of women. Over multiple occasions I was empowered, supported and loved from a variety of different women. The circumstances around each incident was radically different, but the one thing that all of those moments had in common was a desire from each of those women to love and support me. Interestingly enough they are all mothers and some of them grandmothers. Like Elizabeth speaking to Mary in the scripture above, these women spoke into my life love and a great deal of joy.
There is a natural instinct in women to love. We were created with the purpose of supporting and loving our families. What was beautiful and amazing to me this week was to see all of these different women step in and love on me, and only one was family. Three of these women I met for the first time this week. There was something so lovely in these experiences. It is truly beautiful when we as people step in to each others lives to strengthen one another. I got that in spades this week. I didn’t even realize how much I needed it until I was feeling all that support. There is this idea in our society that women can be catty or bitchy, and don’t give me wrong we can be, but that is not who we are at heart. We were made for something so much more. We were made to love. We were made to empower and strengthen. Society rises or falls on the backs of amazing mothers and daughters and sisters and girlfriends and wives and aunts and so on.
I came across a quote today that said “behind every successful woman is a tribe of women.” I don’t know who originally said it, but I believe it to be true. Let me tell you a little about some women in my tribe.
The most influential woman in my life has been my mother. That is not surprising because that is the case for most of us. For me, my mother is also my best friend. I’ve told her before and she doesn’t really believe me, but it’s true, she is the person who taught me what love is and showed me the heart of God. The way she did this was by living it out every single day. I don’t know another person who has sacrificed so much for the people in their life. She would give up anything for her family. Every step of my life I have had her supporting me. She is not perfect, she is riddled with flaws, but who isn’t. She is so sincere and generous and has a strength in her that she isn’t even aware of. Despite all of her anxieties and her fears, she was able to build in me an understanding of my worth and a sense of hope and decency. She’s always telling me how smart and capable and talented I am. She told me again this week! She knows how to empower others and I hope that when she reads this she will feel empowered as well.
She’s not the only amazing woman to come into my life, I had this grandmother who we all called our prayer warrior. She was down on her knees every single morning, and I mean physically down on her knees, and prayed for her family, her friends and the world. She was very faithful and very strong willed and she knew how to love and be loved by God. One of the things I found most inspiring in my grandmother was she was a woman who knew herself well. Again, a woman with many flaws, but she was confident in who she was. I see that confidence passed on to my sisters. Both of them had that same type of light like my grandmother, this inner strength and determination that I’ve always been amazed of, and admittedly a little envious of. She was another woman who knew how to build up her family and friends.
I have been lucky to have some astonishing family and friends come into my life, and sometimes they also go out, but while we were in each others lives they never failed to be there for me. My sister Kim always encouraged me to stand strong. My sister Sheril has only ever wanted to see me happy. My nieces, more like little sisters to me, each one bring life and trouble (sometimes good and sometimes bad) into my life. The numerous friends who laughed and cried and rabble roused with me, many years may have gone by, but their words and actions still linger, influencing me to this day. Over the last few year‘s God has been building a community around me and it continues to grow with beautifully authentic women. I have seen God‘s love in each and everyone of them and they remind of my value and my purpose.
Our lives are filled with amazing people who come in and build us up. Our lives are also filled with those people who need to be strengthened and built up. I look around at the people in my life and I see so many who need the kind of love and support I experienced this week and that I have been blessed to experience in my life. I pray that I can step into these lives and be who God designed me to be. Our lives intertwine and mingle and we leave an imprint and I just want to make sure that my imprint is eternal for everyone who crosses my path. I want to take the strength, the grace and the love of all those dazzling women and let the light shine out. This Mother’s Day, honor those amazing women in your life and pay it forward by empowering all those God brings onto your path.
I was listening to some music earlier in an attempt to cheer myself up. It worked. The right music, the right message can make all the difference. It is simply too easy to fall back into my bad place. My current financial and work search struggles keep threatening to overwhelm me. Yesterday and today I found myself moping and letting my anxieties get a foothold. That is a slippery slope and I knew it, but sometimes it is simply more energy than I have to pull myself out of that funk. After getting very frustrated, irritated, depressed and so on, I was in my bad place. I usually call my mom to talk those things out and feel better. Unfortunately, she had been dredging through the same issues. She tried to cheer me up, and I appreciated that, but the conversation left me in a darker mood than before. I decided to write about how I was feeling, but I was having trouble clearing my mind enough to string together my thoughts. I’m always telling others, writing in this posts and generally annoying people with the message that we need to “focus on Jesus,” it was about time I took my own advice. This is where the music comes in to the story. My name is Melody, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I love music. I can’t sing, play an instrument or write a sonata, but I sure do love to listen to those who can. I searched out a song and then let the music mix randomly. One fantastic message after another reminding me of what I have and what I really need in my life: “Lord I need you” by TobyMac, “Joy” by For King and Country, “Only Jesus” by Casting Crowns and more. All good messages, all ones that brought energy and light into my bad place. Oh, that beautiful Light. One of the last songs to play before I was finally ready to write this post ends with this message:
"I don't want another day to pass
Not another moment
I wanna live intentionally
In light of eternity
I wanna love like You love
I wanna love with my life"
--Hollyn "Love with Your Life"
I have let too many moments go by, too many opportunities to love and be loved, too many days passed while I was in my bad place. I wish I could promise myself that I would never go back there again. Truth is, I’m fallible and I’m human. Unfortunately, I’m also susceptible to depression. Thankfully, God is patient. With Him, I have faith that my visits to my bad place will happen less frequently. He wants me to “love with my life” and He will always be there to show me how. Dear Lord, help me to live each moment intentionally for You, “in the light of eternity.”
“I’m praying for you,” said a woman to me today. I didn’t even know her name, but she knew of me and knew some of my story. Apparently my mom has a big mouth. I’m not complaining I love my mom and I appreciate her having people pray for me. It got me to thinking about how connected we are. Actually this whole day has me thinking about that. I had coffee with a friend earlier today, then I went and hung out with my mom and finally ended up at a friends house. Besides me, the other thing all those moments have in common is the discussion of unity in the body of Christ.
What I find fascinating about all three conversations is that the people I was talking to are seeking the same thing I am. I started this ecumenical journey to answer questions I have about the modern church, to help me understand why there are denominations and to clarify how I fit into the body of the church, but above all else I am seeking unity and community. In my first conversation, I discovered that my friend is getting ready to launch a new aspect of her ministry that will bring together a community of people from a variety of denominations and backgrounds all seeking deeper relationship with Jesus and each other. Interestingly, that is exactly what my other friend is doing. My mom is building around her a group of people that all share one thing in common, and that is their love for Jesus, and she doesn’t care about anything else.
These three women are living life as we were meant to live. Jesus laid it out for us when He said that we are to love God, ourselves and others. And He did say to love with all our heart, mind and soul (Matthew 22). That is to act and think and speak in love and only love.
Sunday was a bad day. Six bombings, casualties over 500 and a death toll over 250. As I said, it was a bad day. It was also Easter, a day dedicated to celebrating life and love, the greatest act of love. In the wake of that tragedy in Sri Lanka a beautiful thing has happened, a call for unity. Around the globe, people of many faiths have been expressing one message clearly and that is that we need to stop fighting and just love. That was Jesus’s ministry and it is His message to us. What happened in Sri Lanka was not the first and unfortunately it will not be the last act of hate that will result in pain and bloodshed, but how we respond could change things. If all those voices crying out for unity and love and peace were actually heard, minds could be changed, hearts healed and lives saved. We could go from having so many black marks across this human existence and start seeing real truth and community as God intends.
Jesus was hung on a cross after being beaten and humiliated and cut and stabbed and pierced. Death was eminent and He was facing a darkness that none of us could ever know as all of our sins were about to be placed on Him. And what did He say, ”Father, forgive them.” Pure love. All He wanted and all He wants is for us to be in unity with Him and each other. We don’t always have to agree and we don’t always have to believe the same stuff and we don’t always have to understand one another, that’s not what He asked us to do. We were commanded to love Him, ourselves and each other. True unity, true community and true relationship and not only in the body of Christian believers but in the children of God. There was no stipulations about only loving people at your own church, or only those of your own faith or only the people in your own backyard. He made it clear in everything He said and everything He did, we are meant to love, and that extends to all. We are all God’s children and we are all seeking that kind of love, acceptance and community.
I’m praying for you. I don’t know who you are, I don’t know your story, and I don’t know what you believe, but I’m praying for you.
What do you expect from God? Don’t gloss over this question. Don’t answer right away. Stop. Think. Think again. Then, say it out loud. Don’t answer with a pat answer. When you said it, did it sound natural? Did it sound sincere? Did it feel real to say it?
We all have expectations of every single person or in our lives. We have expectations of our lives. We expect our spouses to be faithful, supportive and helpful. We expect our kids to obey, eat their vegetables, clean their rooms and play the sport we did. We expect our friends to listen and agree with us. We expect our parents to be perfect and mighty. We expect our dreams to come true. We expect so much during our lives. We are expectation machines.
I was having a conversation today with my mom on my way to church. We were reflecting on yesterday. Yesterday was hard for me, I was feeling the weight of all the shit that had happened to me lately. I spent a lot of time yesterday in a bad place mentally. And some of that was because of my expectations of my life and of God. I expected my life to be very different at this point. This is a long-standing expectation, from way back in high school when I had to write one of those “where will you be in 10 years” type letters. At an early age people ask us what we expect to be when we grow up. The expectation that is put on us from that point is that we are going to become something. We have to accomplish something great. That’s a heavy burden on a kid. And I think it’s even heavier because it starts to define us. Our expectation for our lives and expectation of those people around us, those define us and how we think about the world and our place in it . Yesterday I felt that weight, both the expectations put on me and the expectations I put on me and others.
Back to my conversation with my mom...She was talking about how God is faithful and He will come through for me. Something clicked in my brain when she said “He will come through for me.” It dawned on me that I had an expectation for Jesus to step in and do something. Why? Why do I expect Jesus to bring me a job? Why am I expecting Him to do something right now in my life? Am I not grateful for what He has already done? Am I just consistently putting burdens on Him and not really experiencing what I have? A lot of things started running through my brain.
Now, please do not get me wrong. Jesus did promise that He would provide for all of our needs. I am not suggesting that Jesus is not going to bring me a job. My concern is that I’m putting a weight on our relationship that shouldn’t be there. I don’t need to be standing here waiting for Jesus to bring me a job. What happens if I don’t get one or it doesn’t work out the way I expected? Will I see Jesus as if He failed? Is our relationship about my expectations? Where is my focus in our relationship?
Back to my point earlier about people and expectations. I have a son. I had expectations of my son. I still have expectations of my son. I expected him to go to school, I expected him to follow the rules, I expected him to respect me. I expected too much. Our relationship is on very rocky ground. One of the things he said to me more than once was that I expected too much of him. I thought I was being reasonable, he didn’t. I put a weight on him to conform to me, to my standards. I don’t know if that was right or wrong, but I know it was one of the driving factors in our broken relationship. Expectations carry a great deal of weight. When he couldn’t fulfill my expectations he pushed me away and I got angry and our relationship broke apart. Instead of just living in the relationship and loving him, he and I could not fulfill each other’s expectations and so our relationship became all about our disappointment over those expectations.
I was reminded tonight of my expectations of God many years ago. My sister was sick, cancer. Ten months I put everything into a belief that God would heal her. But, it was my expectation, not my conversation. I put weight on our relationship instead of actually having a relationship. God needed to put up, that was it. Conform to my expectations, heal my sister, that was our relationship at the time. I didn’t take any other consideration as a possibility. When she died I was shattered and my relationship with God...shattered. I was so focused on what I wanted God to do, I completely missed what God had done, what God was doing.
More than 20 years later I find myself again in a painful situation where the things of this world are not doing what I want. My expectations are not being met. Yesterday, I faced that and that weight took me into a deep and dark place. Today, I realized I was doing it all wrong. It’s not about what I expect from God or myself or the world, it’s about what I have. It’s about what’s already happened. It’s about being present now. Truly, it’s about being.
Two thousand years ago, the Jewish people expected Jesus to rise up and tear down the government and become King. They didn’t like the oppression from the Roman empire and expected Jesus to do something about it. But that is not why He came. He did not come to fulfill their expectations. No, He was looking towards something much more eternal. He came to establish a personal relationship with us. And to do that, He had to die a painful and horrible death on the cross. Their expectations were shattered when He fulfilled His.
I’m not gonna lie, I still have expectations of people and things in my life and God. But, I have a new perspective about how to approach those things and not allow them to define my relationships and my life. My expectations are just guidelines or hopes, but they aren’t the relationships and they aren’t the experience. I want to remove the weight of expectation and live free. To truly live my life, I need to be present, I need to be in the moment. I want to think eternally, and I want to think moment to moment. I want to be fully here while embracing the eternity that God has for me. Whether the job comes or not, I will be where God wants me to be because I will be present with Him.
So, I ask again, what do you expect from God?
I’ve been thinking today about talents. Why were we given talents? What purpose do they serve? I spent a good portion of my afternoon and evening using my talents to help my niece promote her talents. I myself am in the process of building a website that will feature a few of my talents, with the help of another niece and her talents. We’ve all been gifted with something, whether it’s artistry or personality or a great smile, we all have some gifts and talents. What I realized today is that our talents are necessary not just to improve our lives but for the benefit of others. I now theorize that utilizing our talents for others is the point of our gifts and life itself. “Everyone has a purpose in life and a unique talent to give to others,” stated Kallam Anji Reddy, who then went on to concur with my theory, “And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.” The ultimate goal of goals, the purpose, the point of it all, the reason for our being…
Every believer has received grace gifts, so use them to serve one another as faithful stewards of the many-colored tapestry of God’s grace.
For a very long time I locked myself away, everything about me kept far from the rest of the world. I was, in many respects, an island, disproving John Donne. Everything about me, all the things that make me special and all the things that make me normal and all the things that just make me, served no purpose whatsoever. I regret that. Looking back at all those years of solitude, pain and loneliness, I recognize how much of my life I let go by and how many opportunities were ignored. I have talents that I was born with, I have gifts that were written into my DNA, I have a calling on my life that Jesus has placed on my soul, and somehow I missed all of that. Well no more, I want to serve God and His people. I want to figure out what my gifts and talents are, beyond the ones in aware of, and figure out how God wants me to use them.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.
What talents do you have? What gifts have been bestowed upon you? How do you use those for the betterment of others? How do you use them for the betterment of yourself? Are you using them at all? Have you thought about what talents lie within you that you’ve yet to discover? We are deeply complex people. God created us to go deep with Him so that He may reveal to us through this journey who we are. We are only so far along, there are many steps ahead and a great deal more to learn. Just imagine for a moment the depths of God’s love for you. It is in the love that He gifted you and He is excited to see what you’ll do with it all. I encourage you to talk to God today about your talents and how they are meant to be utilized.
Something I came to realize over the last few months is that I don’t think I know my voice. I don’t mean my actual audible voice. I mean the inner part of me that is meant to speak out to the world. I have figured out the message for this time in my life, but my voice still eludes me. Neil Gaiman said, “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.“ So, I guess what I’m missing is me. Who is Melody now at this moment? Who do I want Melody to be?
As I begin this ecumenical journey, one of the things I want to seek out is a greater understanding of church and me. What does church mean to me? What is the true difference between church and the Church? What is my place in the Church Body? How am I meant to affect other Christ followers? And the world? Where is my voice in the chorus of believers? This journey is not just about understanding denominations; it’s also about understanding me. What is Christ telling me? Where does God want me? What do I need to know to be a better member of the Body? Honestly, the questions go on and on and on.
The truth of the matter is, like with everything, the way to understand the path to answers is getting deeper with God. There is no one who knows me better. God formed me, He knows every molecule of my body, every thought in my mind and every moment of my life. He knows me deeper than I know myself. To find my voice — to find me — I need to find God. I need to go deeper with Him and let Him reveal truth in my life.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart...”
Who are you? Who are you in God? Have you found your voice? Your message? Do you see the path before you? What answers are you seeking right now? Whatever it is you’re looking for, whatever it is you need to know, hand it over to God and let Him take you deeper so you may know your voice.
As a writer, the most difficult thing is the first sentence. There is something so intimidating about that initial spark of thought that must be put down into words. It is the beginning, it’s the attention grabber, it’s the moment that introduces the message, thoughts and feelings of the author to their audience.
This is true of everything. That first moment...it’s terrifying. Walking into class on the first day, stomach twisted. Getting ready for a first date, palms sweaty. Sitting behind the wheel of your first car, trembling. So many terrifying firsts.
I am at a first. I am terrified. My life has dramatically changed in the last 18 months. To go through the list of things that have been upended would take me a very long time, but through it all I have had a few stabilities, like having a job. Now, even that has changed. And as a result, another part of my life has also changed, my connection to my church home. So, not only am I facing several first moments, but I must also process my grief and sorrow for what is ending. Terror, pain, sorrow, anger, fear, excitement, joy, confusion, and so much more is just bubbling around inside of me. I’m on the precipice of so many firsts I do not know what to do. It’s like a tidal wave of emotion and change wanting to swallow me whole.
I’m about to start what I’m calling an ecumenical journey. I have many questions rolling around in my head. I grew up attending several different churches, but I never really had the opportunity to get to know anything about the churches. For one, I was very young and I was mostly interested in learning about God and I wasn’t thinking about denominational issues. Secondly, my parents had no interest in connecting with any singular church and so moving from one church to another was a way of giving me church while maintaining the distance from church that they needed for their peace of mind. Now I have this chance to go and really explore church life. I get to try and understand why if we are one body under one God, how we can we be so dramatically divided. What makes a Lutheran Lutheran? Why do Anglicans like their liturgy? What’s the difference between a Methodist and a United Methodist? Can God be found in all of these denominations or have we put too many human rules and dogma into our churches? These questions and so many more await me. The answers, I have a feeling, will beget more questions. There’s something truly remarkable about that, and something truly terrifying. The unknown. The unwritten. It’s the first sentence of the next chapter in my life. What will God and I write together?
Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father.
At one time you yourselves used to live according to such desires, when your life was dominated by them. But now you must get rid of all these things...
I have a consistent message. Have you noticed? It’s something I’ve been noticing more and more. If you do a quick perusal of these writings two words keep popping up: joy and focus. It makes sense since the goal has always been to remind my readers to spend time with God, the source of our joy. But, even when the topic of the day is a totally different message, somehow it still always veers back to focusing on God and letting Him transform us so we may live joyful.
I was telling my friend Trina this week about this consistent message in my writing and she just smiled at me. We got to talking about how we all have a message within us, a message that God wants to bring to the world and no matter how many ways we say it, the message always seems to be the same. If you listen to Chip Johnson’s sermons (ctknampa.org), Chip is relatively consistent about speaking on our need for community and oneness in the body of Christ. Rick Snodgrass’ consistent message is grace and the need to understand its intricacies. Apparently I’ve found my message. CS Lewis said, “If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.” The reason I write these messages over and over again is because the thing I want most for you in this world is “joy, power, peace, [and] eternal life” and the way to get those is to spend time focusing on God. Turn your eyes to Jesus and you will be able to “get rid of all [those] things” that keep you chained to this world. You will truly be free and truly live a joyful and fulfilled life.
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these…
I know it’s been a while since I wrote one of these message. It’s been even longer since I focused on Colossians. Tonight felt like a good night to dive back in. This scripture speaks to me. Last time I wrote about this particular scripture I wrote about my past, but I think it’s time to look at my present and how my past is encroaching on my present.
Writing these messages started out as a favor for a friend, but overtime it has become something much more. I came to realize that God had a plan in this, a plan for me and my life. I have learned so much this year writing about Him. The research. The prayer. The time spent just thinking about the writing and the message. It’s been great! On top of that I have had the opportunity to share my heart and give glimpses into the inner workings of Melody. I’ve also been able to share the greatest message of all: GOD LOVES YOU!!
So what happened. Why for the past month or so have I stopped writing. There are a few answers to that question, but the one to look at tonight is revealed by the scripture: old bad habits. For the past month or so I have found myself slowly by surely walling myself away. My hermit like nature sprung up and took over and I let it. I don’t fully understand all the reasons why, but I do know that fear played a part in it. Like I said, this writing has opened me up in ways I wasn’t expecting and when I started to see it I got scared. I’m back to living “the life [I] once lived.” Not good! I don’t want to shy away from my future. I don’t want to shy away from God’s plans for me. I don’t want to shy away from the people in my life. I don’t want to shy away from myself. So, as the scripture says, I must rid myself “of all such things as these.” For me, that’s my fear and isolation. It’s my worry about the future. It’s my walls that need to be obliterated. This is not easy. Change is never easy.
Hallelujah, I have Jesus! He knows the plans He has for me. He knows what is inside of me. I just have to let Him do His thing. I have to stop fighting. There is a plan for this. I’m going to start reading my study books again. I’ve signed up for a class being taught by a friend. I’m also going to sign up for a class at NNU that I think will be good as well that will be a week long in mid-January. These are not my plans. These are God’s plans and He has been showing me very clearly that I need to get focused on Him again. I write about it enough, right! Heck, it’s pretty much the message I write to you every time I write one of these…focus on God…give Him time…turn to Jesus! Okay, it’s about time I took my own advice.
What have you been struggling with lately? Are there things in your life that you need to be rid of, things that cause you to sin, cause distance in your relationships, especially with God? Talk to Him about it. Know that you can’t change without Him. Know that He wants to help you be the best you. Know that He loves you immensely. I’m always here if you want to message me, but make sure to give time over to God. Talk to Him and let Him fill you with His presence and let Him inspire and change and bring about amazing growth within you.
"If today were your last, would you do what you’re doing? Or would you love more, give more, forgive more? Then do so! Forgive and give as if it were your last opportunity. Love like there’s no tomorrow, and if tomorrow comes, love again."
I’ve been angry for awhile now. I’m really struggling—and I mean really struggling. Most of my anger has been directed towards my family, but not all of it. I find myself getting angry at a whole lot of things and a whole lotta people and it just keeps building. When I’m this angry I’m blinded and overly focused on the source(s) of my anger. That’s why the above quote stands out to me today, it stands as a reminder of the person I want to be, the person that God has made me to be…a person of compassion, hope, joy, love and forgiveness. Whatever wrongs I feel that others have done against me, my anger and my frustration hurts me more than others. Forgiveness is healing and right now I know I need a lot of personal healing.
There is a lot to take from the quote above. I want you to take a moment and close your eyes and breathe in deep.
Do it again.
One more time.
Now read the quote above out-loud to yourself twice. What word or grouping of words in that quote stood out to you? Take your time and really reflect on what resonated or shimmered for you in that quote. Now, take those words to God. Ask Him help you learn from those words. Maybe you need to work on forgiveness or simply be reminded that love is the most important thing. Remember, life is fleeting and needs to be lived fully. Most importantly, find time to talk to God and let His message teach you today.